Readers Write:

I write in my capacities as President of SHAI, Sephardic Heritage Alliance, Inc., Trustee of the Great Neck Public Schools Board of Education, and longtime resident of this community to share wonderful tidings with your readers this holiday season.

Your readers will surely be gladdened to know that the recent SHAI Children’s Coat and Clothing Drive surpassed anyone’s wildest expectations due to the overwhelming goodwill and generosity of hundreds of people of goodwill right here in our community.

As previously reported in your paper, the Great Neck Public Schools launched a clothing pantry to benefit students in need last year. Despite ongoing stereotypes of communal affluence, the Pantry is actually a response to the reality that a very significant double-digit portion of each of our public school communities is food-insecure.

Located at the Saddle Rock elementary school, run on a volunteer basis by staff, and supported by the various PTOs, the Clothing Pantry is a resource that Guidance Counselors in the various schools refer identified families to on a confidential basis.

The not-for-profit organization over which I currently preside, SHAI, has a three-decade history of coat drives, blood drives, need-based and merit scholarships, educational programming and partnering with multiple communal not-for-profit religious, secular,  and municipal entities.

This year, SHAI received approval from GNPS to run a Children’s Clothing Drive to benefit the GNPS Clothing Pantry.  Last Sunday, Dec. 2, SHAI’s office was the site of drop-offs for the Clothing Drive. We were delightedly overwhelmed insofar as there was an outpouring of generosity from donors albeit during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

In fact, the abundance of donations far exceeded the original Children’s Clothing requests:  In addition to over one hundred children’s winter coats we received, and loads of sweaters and pants, etc., SHAI also received nearly one hundred men’s winter coats, men’s suits, button-down shirts, sweaters, nearly 60 women’s winter coats, and more assorted clothing than we have been able to conclude sorting as of this writing!

Consequently, I am thrilled to report that Midnite Run via SHAI and Temple Israel of Great Neck will receive the adult coats and suits for distribution to homeless individuals at shelters in New York City, and that the various “gemachs” (an acronym for “gemilut chasidim” a Hebrew phrase and Jewish “mitzvah” obligation to perform acts of kindness without taking interest on loans) will receive the remainder.

On behalf of the SHAI Board, I would be remiss not to thank the hundreds of anonymous donors- Persian Jews as well as so many others-  who donated so generously in furtherance of our efforts. SHAI also extends gratitude to the leadership of the UPTC, United Parent Teacher Council of the Great Neck Public Schools for co-promoting the Coat and Clothing Drive to the entire parent body.  Some Great Neck children and families will literally be warmer this winter due to this generosity. I also choose to believe that all Great Neck hearts can feel warmer that we have still have such unbounded thoughtfulness and generosity in our midst.

Rebecca Sassouni

Great Neck


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